There are fears that the elderly in Cork and the business community will be hit hard by the extended Covid-19 lockdown, now set to continue until Tuesday, May 5.
The Taoiseach announced the extension of the lockdown yesterday. Leo Vardakar thanked Irish people for their forbearance and said every sacrifice they were making was saving lives.
“Because the vast majority of people have heeded the advice of the experts we have been able to interrupt the spread of the virus, we have been able to shelter the most vulnerable and protect them,” he said.
“Your sacrifices are making a difference, we have slowed the spread of the virus considerably but unfortunately we have not stopped its spread.
“We all know people who are suffering and grieving at this time, too many have died and sadly more will die and get sick before this is over.
“So today’s message is that we cannot be complacent and we cannot lose focus.
“What we’re doing is difficult, but it is making a difference and we have to keep going. We need to persevere and we need to maintain our discipline and resolve.”
Over-60s advocate Paddy O’Brien said that while he implored people to heed the guidelines and stay at home, loneliness was a desperate disease that we should all watch out for especially when it comes to older people.
“The greatest problem the elderly have at the moment is loneliness and fear,” said Mr O’Brien. “Everybody has food but some people are lonely. Neighbours should be calling on the elderly, knocking on the window and having a chat. I spoke to one person and they told me they hadn’t spoken to anyone in four days.
“Another man said the only person he had heard in three days was the newscaster. We all have a role to play.”
Mr O’Brien said he would ask neighbours to put a note through the letterbox and call round and chat through the window. The elderly advocate also said that a lot of people are missing Mass for the social interaction it brings.
He asked people to go that extra mile for an elderly person in their area.
“This Easter bring a bit of happiness and sunshine to someone’s life by picking up the phone or knocking on a door,” said Mr O’Brien. “Some conversation and contact is very important.”
Cork Business Association chief executive Lawrence Owens said that additional government supports for local business are needed to ensure the longevity of Cork businesses given the extension of the lockdown.
“Restaurants, hotels and cafes would normally be very busy this time of year, Easter and coming into the summer,” he said. “Naturally, they are massively affected and retail outlets with spring stock in storerooms that they can’t sell and will be no good in the summer.”
Mr Owen said it is a massive concern for businesses to have no revenue for another three weeks.
“I hope we won’t lose businesses in the city,” he said. “There is currently a deferral on rates, I think there should be a moratorium implemented by the central government.
“There is little point opening in say August for argument’s sake to a heap of bills. These businesses need to be supported across the board.”
Mr Owens said that the measures implemented by the Government need to be much more expansive.
“We have got to throw money at it. There needs to be a totality of measures,” he said. “There are a lot of stakeholders involved in this, so we really are all in this together, the banks, the businesses, the council, the Government, landlords. Every sector needs to survive and weather this storm.”
Manager of the Cornstore and chairman for the Cork branch of the Restaurant Association of Ireland Mike Ryan said it was no surprise to hear the lockdown was extended and said that the important thing was that when the businesses do reopen, it is permanent.
“We have one shot at this, businesses can’t open and close again,” he said. “That will cripple the country have one shot at this have to do it right.
“We lost a lot in closing down, perishables, etc, and having to open again will require maintenance and deep cleaning.”
Yesterday’s announcement came as gardaí manned multiple checkpoints around the city and county, enforcing the current restrictions. Under the restrictions, people have been ordered to remain in their homes in all but a limited set of specific circumstances.
The circumstances include travelling to or from work deemed to be essential, food shopping, medical appointments, brief exercise, farming activity and vital family reasons.
People who do leave their homes for exercise are prevented from travelling beyond a 2km radius from their homes.
All people over the age of 70, and other people considered vulnerable to the disease, have been told to “cocoon” and not leave home at all.